Alabama, the Joke’s on You

Lili Loofbourow, Trump Lost #Sharpiegate the Moment He Took It Seriously

During this astonishing #Sharpiegate news cycle—a throbbing tumor attached to the real news of a Bahamas devastated by the storm—Trump, who typically lies with fluency and ease, cared so deeply about being fact-checked on this particular matter that his handlers warned the press he’d keep it going as long as they did. Trouble was, Trump cared much more than the press did. Maybe pathologically. He spent the better part of a week doubling down like a hangry gambler on this single claim, sharing old maps of obsolete weather forecasts to find something that would make him right—while Alabama went unaffected and the Bahamas mourned and the Carolinas battened down. He persisted until almost everyone ended up mystified and astounded, shaking their heads the way one does when someone has well and truly lost it.…

More interesting than Trump’s ongoing lie is what his absolute fixation on maintaining it says about the state of his White House and its relationship to the information environment. So clumsy and obvious was the Sharpie-drawn extension that it seemed like a test—how much can I get away with? Authoritarians frequently gauge their subordinates’ loyalties by ordering them to agree to things that are plainly untrue. …

It’s not hard to understand why people—even Fox News reporters—are refusing to let #Sharpiegate go. Natural disasters are serious business. And there is nothing partisan about a hurricane map, or about the potential for false alarms and unnecessary panic and misdirected resources.

So now the claim is that it was all a big joke.

Apparently, driving ignorant rednecks into a panic based on false information is a real knee-slapper.

Washington Post, The Fix, Trump suggested his Alabama deception was a big joke. But NOAA isn’t laughing — and neither should we.

President Trump’s supporters generally have a few different retorts to news about his serial untruths, which now include more than 12,000 false or misleading claims:

It’s overblown by the media.

Every politician does it.

He’s doing it intentionally to troll the media and his opponents.

Trump himself leaned into this last one over the weekend. He tweeted a video around midnight Saturday that depicted CNN as a cat batting at a laser pointer as he moves it around Trump’s doctored map of Hurricane Dorian in which the storm shows a potential to hit Alabama. The message is unmistakable: He’s a master troll, making the media dance with a carefully crafted distraction.

There are a couple of problems with that. The first is that Trump’s own argument implies he’s being deceptive. The second is that treating “Sharpie-gate” as a meaningless distraction completely misses the point.

Let’s think for a second about what Trump tweeted Saturday night. He suggested that he’s not really doing all this because of Alabama and Dorian but rather to mess with people. (It would seem odd that someone who is so effectively pulling the wool over people’s eyes would come out and tell them that’s what he’s doing, but let’s set that aside for a second.) He’s effectively saying that he spent a full week of his presidency trolling the country with a trivial debate.

A Thought for the Folks in Mobile Who Were Scared Shitless by Trump’s Tweets

I hope y’all are now rolling on the floor, laughing uproariously.

Because, Alabama, the joke is on you.

The Death of Parody, the Death of Punditry

three acre wood

Andrew Egger, Sharpie-gate Proves We Are Living in a Real-Life ‘Onion’ Article: What is dead may never die, they say. Except for parody. Trump killed parody.

Never one to suffer a dunking lightly, Trump has spent the rest of his week rooting around for weather maps that appear to prove him right and the LYING FAKE NEWS wrong, culminating in an Oval Office appearance Wednesday at which he displayed an official forecast chart on which—we are not joking—someone had edited Alabama into the blast zone with a Sharpie marker.

None of us can improve upon this magical moment; it is holy high art. Politicos like to sound off solemnly about how this or that momentary spat will be judged by history. Ordinarily this is pure bloviation—history will forget practically all our squabbles—but any writeup of the early 21st century that fails to mention Sharpiegate won’t be worth the paper it’s printed on. As Trump moments go, this is practically a Wonder of the World.

But if this kind of thing is bad for humorists, it can be bad for pundits too. … The takeaway from the Sharpie story is obvious: “the president is a media-addled old fool who can’t be trusted to read a map, let alone operate our nuclear arsenal.” How are 500 columnists supposed to pad that out to 800 words?

The unfortunate result has been that much anti-Trump punditry is simply boring.

Sharpiegatte’s Lesson for the Trade War


The Guardian, ‘Sharpiegate’: Trump insists Dorian was forecast to ‘hit or graze’ Alabama

Washington Post, U.S. economy adds just 130,000 jobs in August amid worries that trade war has sunk its teeth into hiring: The unemployment rate remained at 3.7%

Right now, the United States is a tale of two economies: The service sector remains strong with health care and business adding a lot of jobs in August. But industries such as mining and manufacturing that depend heavily on selling items overseas are struggling….

Most companies have already scaled back spending on buildings and equipment, and there is concern that they will now cease hiring, a move that could have harmful consequences on the U.S. economy, as consumer spending drives so much of the U.S. economy. When Americans are fearful of losing their jobs, they tend to halt spending.

So, let’s review the bidding. China is going to let the economic standoff kind of marinate during the rest of September. That will give time to let any “adults in the room” try to talk Trump out of his madness. Prediction: Won’t happen. Then, in October, some Chinese will show up in October to talk about trade.

This news caused stocks to rise on Friday. For all those folks who thought the forthcoming trade talks were good news—good enough news to go out and bid up the price of General Motors—I  can make you a really good deal on a bridge in Brooklyn.

And let’s review the bidding on Sharpiegate:

  • Day 1: as the hurricane forms in the Atlantic, Trump is told that targets could include Alabama,
  • Day 4: any risk to Alabama has long passed, but Trump, having been asleep at the switch for three days, tweets that Dorian is still targeting Alabama.

Everybody occasionally falls asleep at the wheel. Everybody makes an odd mistake now and then—remember how Pocahontas told the Texas Bar Association she was an American Indian—but normal people acknowledge the mistake and move on. But instead of admitting his error and moving on, Trump keeps insisting that he was right all along. To bolster his case, he gives the whole country a belly laugh by presenting a ludicrously altered weather map.

If he cannot admit error on Sharpiegate, I find it inconceivable that Trump will admit error in respect of his delusional beliefs about tariffs and international trade. Nor on his delusional narcissistic faith in the power of his own bullshit and bluster.

As sure as God made little green apples, Trump’s delusions are going to lead us over an economic cliff.

If you think otherwise, then I am fully prepared to make it a package deal: along with the Brooklyn Bridge, you can have the George Washington Bridge too.

And if you think the Chinese are going to cut us some slack, I’ll make it a threefor: the Brookly Bridge, the George Washington Bridge, and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Such a deal. Such a deal.